By Cory Collins
13 Feb 2014

Building Links – I’m not Working at the Sausage Factory

Link Building

Link building is a niche within a niche (SEO). When I’m at a social event, whether it be a family gathering, dinner with friends, or a night of festivities I’m careful about getting into discussions centered around work.

Am I embarrassed by my job? Hell no! My job’s awesome, fulfilling, intellectually stimulating, and even fun.

It’s just that, well, explaining my job sucks. It is safe to say it’s a little off the beaten path from the average American’s life.

You see, my job didn’t exist 20 years ago. Much before that, it wouldn’t have even been possible to do my job – it revolves around the internet, especially Google.

I mean, I’m pretty deep down the rabbit hole over here, into the online world. I spend at least 40 hours a week thinking about something that 99% of people have no idea exists. I live, breathe, eat, and dream internet. Sometimes I have to put on my ‘reality hat’ and remember that some people barely use computers in their everyday lives (/shiver).

link building meme

At first, I was excited to tell people what I did. This of course lasted all of five minutes.

America is a country of status. As the best country in the world (arguably) we’re very status centric. What’s better than living in the best county in the world? Having the best job, in the best country in the world…

I think you see where I’m going.

So, as a young, socially conscious 20 something, how do I come to grips with the fact that I can’t brag about my awesome job to anyone who has the misfortune to ask at a social gathering? Well, as my Grandpa told me, every great story deserves embellishment.

In fact, what I tell people at these social gatherings is that I work at an Online (or Internet, depending upon the context) Marketing Company. Marketing is great. It’s an established career; people instantly understand the concept, and respect my prowess as a young professional.

In reality however, it’s not very accurate as a job description. And, while it was nice to have an easy way to explain my job at first, eventually it’s frustrating to mouth the same words over and over again, paying lip service to the same vanilla lie.

link building meme2

And you know what? People could tell I was brushing them off with a simplification. No one likes to be condescended to, and I fear that’s likely the way it came across.

So, back to the drawing board. Being a social guy, I had plenty of room for experimentation. The evolution went something like this:

  • I work at an Online Marketing Company
  • I work at an Online Marketing Firm helping clients gain visibility on the web
  • I’m a writer at a Marketing Company (this one was pretty good, since it used two intelligible terms – but it was sticky if they asked more questions)
  • I’m a writer at an Online Marketing Company
  • I work in SEO
  • I work in Search Engine Optimization
  • I work on the internet (I was pretty burned out, but too many people thought this was a weird summation)
  • I work at an SEO company doing link building.

That’s right, I stopped with the truth. Probably what I should have started with. Telling people I work as an SEO doing link building can come across a little strange, but it’s the honest truth and if people want a deeper explanation, they can ask. If not, and they’re confused, I can always do a quick follow up “I work at an online marketing company”.

What did I learn from all this?

  1. Well, first, that people want to know what you do. It’s acceptable polite chit chat small talk, and nearly unavoidable when meeting someone new.
  2. People don’t want a mouth full of Martian when they ask about your job. They want a brief, concise, easy to understand two-sentence-maximum explanation.
  3. That explanation has to stand further scrutiny if they decide they’d like to know more. If the explanation doesn’t match the description, it’s less than flattering.
  4. If you can’t explain your own job intelligently and clearly, people tend to write you off.
  5. Answer honestly but to the point – let people investigate further if they’re so inclined.

At the end of the day, sometimes a little white lie is necessary in the form of over-simplification. When it counts, I go the extra mile to try and explain my job.

But you know what? More than anything, I learned that having a weird job is great. The amount of weird, odd, fun discussions I’ve had based around my job has been a source of constant entertainment.

You just have to know how to play your cards.

Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Business Development Manager at Page One Power and has been with the agency since 2012. Cory is an SEO strategist, writer, runner, and outdoor enthusiast residing in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, daughter, and (too) many pets.